I intend to make a comparison of the linguistic features of different types of language found on the Internet. This area interests me simply because I believe the Internet is the new medium for communication, a place where people can talk in real time, send messages across the world in seconds, receive up-to the minute news bulletins, consequently there is a wealth of information stored on it. This information can take many linguistic shapes and forms. Much of the language on the Internet is an emulation of ones common to other mediums, newspapers, magazines etc. Nevertheless, this new medium also gives an opportunity for new non-standard language forms to arise.
The data I have chosen is as follows:
* A conversation from an internet chat-room, 28/01/01
* Two pop-up advertisements, January 2001
* An internet jargon glossary, January 2001
I have chosen this data simply because they provides a wide range linguistic features, that can be analysed and compared through four frameworks. As a result I hope to find that different web based sources, specifically ones that address different topics will use different lexis, orthography, semantics, discourse structure and graphology. As well as this, how levels of formality can be linked to topic.
Chapter 1-Lexis, Semantics and Orthography
Quite common to Internet chat-rooms is the use of non-standard English. In many ways it is very similar to a transcribed speech, perhaps between two teenagers or of two uneducated adults. Due to the fact that they are the two groups most likely to use non-standard English. However, in the case of Internet chat-rooms, the lack of standard English is quite often for speed and convenience, simply because people cannot type as fast as they can speak, which is what they are attempting to emulate.
As a result writers tend to make use of acronyms to save time, for example “lol” for “laugh out loud”, or “asl” for “age, sex, location”. As well as this, words can be shortened for example, “tx” for “Texas” “int” for “in the”, furthermore, words are sometimes written phonetically “r”, “u” and “ur” for example. In places back-channel features are used to show awareness and for politeness, for example “ahh”, “nice” and “ok”. One feature that is greatly different to most other forms of writing is the way feelings are displayed in Internet chat-rooms. Specific combinations of punctuation can be arranged to produce what are know as “Emoticons” for example “: )”.
Some words have been replaced by blends, normally two words that have been clipped and joined together to make one word of the same meaning, “sorta” in place of “sort of” and “wanna” in place of “want to”, nevertheless these examples could be argued to be phonetic representations of non-standard spoken English.
The conversation consists simply of two people asking each other a series of personal questions for example, where they are from, how old they are etc. As a result the semantic field is that of general small talk. As well as this conveying of information, phatic language is used to share feelings and to establish a mood of sociability rather than to communicate information or ideas, for example “bored” and “sad”. Consequently the level of formality is very low, the text is a lot like a normal conversation, this is obvious when the language is analysed, specifically the address terms, “hey” and “see ya”.
Three pop-up advertisements
The first advertisement is for an “Alien Adoption Agency”. The title makes use of a form of rhetoric to entice the reader, alliteration. “Explore a new world”, this could be included as it can be linked to the semantic field of space, i.e. the new world being something that we have not conquered, or inhabited. Also the inclusion of the word “World” gives the impression of grandness, the reader is probably also enticed by this. All of the words are written in Standard English. Although this provides a certain level of formality, this is nullified by the concept of the advert being entirely impossible; it is in actual fact a parody.
The second advertisement is for a free “internet-to-mobile phone” Short Messaging Service and only contains six words “U send, U receive, U text”. There is a non-standard spelling of the word “you”, it is written phonetically “U”, probably included because it is common to Texts Messages, where there is a strict character limit of 160, and words are often shortened. It is clear that the semantic field is that of Short Message Service, “send” and “receive” appear on almost every mobile phone and people are familiar with them. The use of “U” provides a break from the other words, which provide some formality. Overall though, the level of formality of the piece is quite low.
The third advertisement is for the free download of an online casino program, which allows users to place bets on casino games from their home. There is a repetition of the word “free”, this is probably there is to entice the reader into clicking on the advert. “Grand Hotel”, inclusion of the pre-modifier “grand” to make the Casino seem more impressive, also “grand”, grandness is associated with riches, gives the reader a feeling that if they play in this casino they are likely to win.
Internet Jargon Glossary
This text is similar to that of a glossary in the back of a reference book. It contains a list of words or acronyms together with their meanings. The semantic field of the Internet is full of words that do not exist anywhere else; this is apparent in these examples “Download”, “Website” etc. Also the meanings of words are altered when in the context of the Internet. “Gopher”, normally people consider this to be an animal, in the semantic field of the Internet it is “a menu based system for exploring Internet resources”.
In the text there are many acronyms “FAQ”, “HTML”, “HTTP”, each followed by the meaning. Consequently the text is full of subject specific lexis. Also found in the text are blends, “Netiquette” for example; the joining “net” and “etiquette” to produce a word which is “the unwritten rules of the road” for the internet.
Chapter 2-Graphology and Discourse Structure
This text has little usage of graphics or in fact any other graphological features. The only form of graphology that one is able to comment on is the use of “Emoticons”; the pictures used to show feelings by specific arrangements of punctuation. In the text the happy face “: )” is used to show a feeling of happiness. Apart from there are no other forms of graphology in the text.
The text though is very similar to a transcribed conversation, with regards to discourse structure, i.e. there is obvious turn taking between the participants. Nevertheless it is not completely the same, in places the taking of turns breaks down and one person has two utterances. As well as this, acronyms are used a lot more in Internet chat rooms compared to everyday speech. It is normally the case that acronyms are found in the language of educated speakers, political speeches for example.
Three pop-up advertisements
The alien adoption agency advert makes use of a few very noticeable graphological features. The picture of the alien is shown in full light on the left of the picture, as sort of the opening point, i.e. the place where you read from first. The middle is decorated with the text backed with black with white speckles, mainly to emulate the night sky, and space. The alien on the right of the text is different to the one on the left, in such that it is much darker, and the outline is barely visible. This is probably done to show the end of the advert, most likely the place where reader will stop reading.
The second advertisement is for the free Internet SMS. There are only two main graphological features of this. The font used to write the text is designed to look a lot like that which features on a mobile phone screen. This is there for the association; the fact that the service offered is to do with mobile phones.
The Casino advert uses a border to draw the reader attention inwards. The word “grand” is written in gold to imply wealth and success. There is a small symbol of a card suite, spades, probably there to show the casino specialises in card games, or just to give a feel of gambling.
Internet Jargon Glossary
There is no use of graphology. The discourse structure of the text is simply a list of uppercase words combined with their meanings in normal sentence case.
It becomes apparent that there is a huge variety of different language used on the Internet. Ranging from, completely non-standard English, to complicated subject specific lexis, written in Standard English. Nevertheless, I have only looked at a very small amount of the Internet. There are several billion websites; consequently the project I have conducted here does not conclusively answer the question “how is the language on the internet different” but more “a small comparison of some general sources”.